[Translated from Le Monde (Paris)]
FLOWER POWER AND PATCHOULI EVENING
Le Monde (Paris)
August 23, 2007 (posted Aug. 22)
A heady fragrance of patchouli wafted over Arte Tuesday evening. In a break from its commemoration of the 1967 "summer of love," the station broadcast the documentary film devoted to the festival that took place in August 1969 at Woodstock. More has come down to us from the high points experienced in a little town in New York State, suddenly invaded by more than a million young people, than just the famous singing in a downpour and the not less famous rite in which lighters are lit collectively at concerts.
The mother of all great musical happenings and ancestor of the rave party, Woodstock's great gesture constitutes a generational icon. So baby-boomers experiencing this flower power evening no doubt waxed nostalgic. As for their grown-up children, invited to appreciate Santana's riffs and Jim Hendrix's virtuosity, they probably dropped a few amused remarks about Roger Daltry of The Who's indescribable jacket fringes, and the "a little excessive" propensity of 60s rock groups to indulge in interminable drum solos. Ungrateful youth... Michael Wadleigh's long 1970 documentary (which Martin Scorsese produced) on the concert of the century yielded up to us a few nuggets nonetheless. Like the two kids living in a commune, one of whom said his mother was convinced he would end up roasting in hell, and the other who said his father was convinced his son had left "for a Communist training camp." Or the wild improvised yoga session during which the master of ceremonies explained that what was interesting about this subject was that if correctly done the breathing exercises give the same sensations as a good dose of LSD.
But the film, which contributed much to maintaining the legend of Woodstock (the famous Country Joe song against the war in Vietnam is subtitled in anticipation of karaoke, so that viewers in theaters can sing along as a chorus), doesn't yield all that naively to the defense and illustration of the myth. It shows not only agoraphobia crises but also overdoses and accidents -- there were deaths at Woodstock. You can also hear the organizers warmly applaud U.S. Army helicopters -- the same ones that were hovering in Vietnam's skies -- that came to evacuate the wounded. At the end of the three and a half hours "of peace and music," and, to tell the truth, a bit tipsy from the 70s way of splitting the screen into two, or even three, parts, we had to put our tie-dyed T-shirt back onto the shelf of memories.
Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Web page: http://www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/